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With Thanksgiving this week, it’s common to hear and see phrases in every forum questioning what you are grateful for and encouraging you to focus on these things to better your life. Meditation journals, wellness articles, and many other avenues are constantly telling us to “feel” thankful, to meditate on all that we have to be thankful for. But today, what if you looked at things a little differently and, instead, started asking yourself how your gratitude could perhaps better someone else’s life, rather than simply impact your own well-being?
For most individuals, it isn’t incredibly difficult to quickly list several things that you appreciate; for many, family, friends, a career, and shelter would come to mind. There is certainly nothing wrong with focusing on our blessings, but the only person that benefits from these thoughts and feelings of gratitude is the person doing the commemorating. When we choose, however, to take the focus of gratitude off of how we are feeling and turn it into an opportunity to physically or verbally express that gratitude, we are working to build better relationships – which affects both the giver and the receiver.
In an article titled Stop Making Gratitude All About You in the Harvard Business Review, author Heidi Grant discusses research that shows it is typical for individuals to focus largely on how they feel when communicating their gratitude. She goes on to say that the problem with this is the shift in focus on the benefit to oneself and a lack of time spent actually conveying one’s gratitude. The act of expressing your thankfulness for what an individual specifically did, and not how it made you feel is, as Grant puts it, “…the glue that binds you and your benefactor together, allowing you to hit the same well over and over again, knowing that support won’t run dry.”
As the month of Thanksgiving continues, consider the leaders who have mentored you, the fellow agents who have inspired you, and the clients who have trusted you. But please, don’t stop there. Go to them and let them know what they have done or said that you are grateful for…put the emphasis on THEM and take the “it made me feel” out of the equation. I can guarantee that it will strengthen your relationships when you praise them for their efforts without needing to emphasize the benefit for you.
However you go about communicating your appreciation, remember this quote by William Arthur Ward, “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.”